A good primary school will work hard to develop a strong home-school partnership which supports the ethos of ‘Every Child Matters’, this should also encourage and support parents so that they can positively engage with their child’s learning experience in the home environment. For this to happen good communication systems are put in place so that parents feel comfortable in approaching and talking to their child’s class teacher. Explanation and training sessions are provided so that parents can follow and understand the teaching methods used in the school and reinforce them at home.
As a parent it is not always easy or clear to know where to start if you have concerns about your child’s progress or abilities or even if you should be concerned in the first place. Talking to your child’s teacher is often a good place to start as they are aware of the wider ability ranges in your child’s age group. They also have access to a greater variety of supporting information, materials and teaching staff who, if needed, can provide you with further support and guidance.
Every primary school has a designated special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) whose role is to advise and implement coordinate “special education needs and disability code of practice; 0-25 years” (SEND) as of the 1st September 2014 (replacing the SEN code of practice).
Every primary school should have a handwriting policy which explains the whole school approach to teaching handwriting. You are entitled to a copy of this policy on request, however it may not detail exactly which style of font is being taught or the variation in individual letter style being adopted by the school. It is important to find this information out from the primary school your child will or is attending.
Not all primary schools use the same handwriting style or progressive process to forming a final joined writing style, this is not a problem in itself but can make it difficult for us as parents to support, especially if the style being taught is very different from our own.
To best support your child you need to understand and know how to form the style of handwriting they teach in Early Years, Key Stage 1 (ks1) and Key Stage 2 (ks2). This will also avoid confusing your child, which may occur if you teach handwriting your way, as you will be reinforcing the teaching in school, avoiding the potential for frustration or an unwillingness to write to creep in.
The main styles of handwriting being taught in primary schools in the UK at present are Print (Manuscript), Cursive and Continuous Cursive for lower case letters. Some primary schools will teach print in the early years and move to cursive towards the end of Key Stage 1 (ks1) which encourages the child to join their letters in a more fluid manner as they develop the skill in Key Stage 2 (ks2). Some primary schools may teach continuous cursive right from Early Years. It is possible that some children will be taught all three styles of handwriting throughout their infant and primary school career because they have changed school between Key Stage 1 (ks1) and Key Stage 2 (ks2). For many children this is not a problem but for others it can be quite a trial as they move to a new style before having mastering the old one.
Fortunately all the writing styles we talk about and tend to use in the UK use the same form of manuscript style for forming capital letters and they never join the lower case letters.
Alternative Letter Styles
Once again it is important to check with your child’s school which variation of a letter, for cursive and continuous cursive, they are using as there is more than one style for certain letters. We have tried to incorporate all the variations that are commonly used in UK primary schools at present. The letters to watch out for are b, f, k, p, s, x and z.
If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting it is always best to speak to the class teacher first, they may have made the same observations as yourself and have already put some extra support in place. Ask their advice on how you can further support your child at home. The class teacher may not, at that time, have specific suggestions for you and may need to speak to the school SENCO (Special Education Needs Coordinator) for practical ideas to support the work being done in school.
Agree with the class teacher a good time for a follow up meeting before you leave. By making an agreed appointment the teacher will have dedicated the time so that you can both go through the action plan, making sure that you are happy with the course of action being suggested. This is better than just turning up at the end of a day when the teacher may rush you because they have other commitments.
Questions to Ask!
Is the class teacher concerned about the handwriting?
How, and how often, is handwriting taught in class?
Do they have a policy for handwriting in the primary school (this will outline the systematic method of teaching handwriting throughout the school)? Ask for a copy.
Is there a particular approach or style which is being used with the children?
How can you, at home, support what they are doing at school?
If you have done all these and you are still concerned, you can request a handwriting assessment from the Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) in the school and take advice from them.